Anna Rogan seems to be just a normal teen to everyone except her best friend and neighbor, Rei, with whom she grew up and now spends most of her time. Rei knows that Anna can project herself astrally, out of her body, to anywhere she chooses. Rei has been raised around metaphysical philosophies and Eastern religions, and as Anna's confidant, he tries to help her use her gift.
Rei's buddy Seth is being stalked by the school tart, Taylor Gleason. He tries to avoid her, but after she steals his phone, Taylor agrees to meet her at the falls outside of their small Vermont town. Against Rei's advice, Anna projects to the falls and witnesses Taylor's accidental death. When she tries to return to her body, she can’t; it has been taken by Taylor's spirit, and Anna can't get back in.
Faced with the prospect of never being a real person again, Anna turns to Rei for help. But first they have to find a way to stop Taylor from testifying (in Anna’s body) that Seth murdered Taylor while attempting to rape her.
Why I picked it up: Years ago I read Lois Duncan's Stranger With My Face, which was my first read featuring astral projection. It has always been one of my favorites. I love the concept and hoped this would be as good.
Why I finished it: Anna and Taylor are polar opposites. I thoroughly enjoyed Anna's angst as Taylor transforms her body with piercings, a tattoo, and acrylic nails, and uses amnesia to explain her raunchy, new personality. In dealing with the urgency of finding a way back to her body, Anna learns much more about herself, her powers, and her relationship with Rei.
I'd give it to: Rachel, who loved Lockhart's Fly on the Wall where much of the story's narrative is from an unseen source. She will love Anna's predicament and the way she uses it to her advantage to watch over those she cares for while trying to figure out how to oust Taylor.
@bookblrb: Anna is gifted: she can project herself astrally. But while she’s away a dead girl’s spirit takes over her body.
The long-awaited follow-up to 2011's Slash & Burn and the ninth installment in Colin Cotterill's bestselling mystery series starring the inimitable Lao national coroner, Dr. Siri.
In a small Lao village, a very strange thing has happened. A woman was shot and killed in her bed during a burglary; she was given a funeral and everyone in the village saw her body burned. Then, three days later, she was back in her house as if she'd never been dead at all. But now she's clairvoyant, and can speak to the dead. That's why the long-dead brother of a Lao general has enlisted her to help his brother uncover his remains, which have been lost at the bottom of a river for many years.
Lao national coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun and his wife, Madame Daeng, are sent along to supervise the excavation. It could be a kind of relaxing vacation for them, maybe, except Siri is obsessed with the pretty undead medium's special abilities, and Madame Daeng might be a little jealous. She doesn't trust the woman for some reason-is her hunch right? What is the group really digging for at the bottom of this remote river on the Thai border? What war secrets are being covered up?
"Laughter is a subversive weapon when you live under a repressive regime. That's the take-away lesson from Colin Cotterill's gravely funny novels set in Indochina in the 1970s." -New York Times Book Review
""Cotterill has never been better than in this ninth outing for acerbic Dr. Siri.... The action builds to an ingenious resolution." -Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
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In 1938, when German scientist Otto Hahn discovered fission, it began a race with the highest possible stakes, even though the countries involved did not know it for a few years. The United States and Germany (and later, the Soviet Union) realized that the massive amounts of energy released when atoms split could change the outcome of the World War II.
A few years after Hahn’s discovery, word got out that Germany had an atomic bomb program. While American scientists were looking at splitting atoms, too, they were years behind the Germans. It took a letter from Albert Einstein to get President Roosevelt to fast track an American effort. A rail-thin, chain-smoking physicist, Robert Oppenheimer, was named chief scientist of the effort to beat Germany to developing an atomic bomb. Despite his position, Oppenheimer was not completely trusted by the U.S government. He was under surveillance because of contact with communists years earlier. (A communist party member had asked him to share information with the USSR. Oppenheimer refused, but did not report the contact as he should have, which made him suspect.) In a mad rush, scientists were gathered from all over the United States, given all materials they needed, and left to their own devices. The project, at its height, secretly employed 300,000 Americans, many of whom did not know what they were helping to make.
The Soviet Union caught wind of the project through their advanced spying network attempting to infiltrate Los Alamos. Spies recruited scientists involved in the project, and the plans were leaked to the Soviets.
When the atomic bomb was tested, it turned hundreds of feet of sand to glass, blew up houses miles away, and sent a (now iconic) mushroom cloud miles into the sky. President Truman was forced to weigh American lives versus the use of atomic weapons.
Why I picked it up: This was one of the five YALSA award nominees for Excellence in Non-Fiction. And I have only a hazy knowledge of the details of the Manhattan project.
Why I finished it: The crazy, unexpected facts pulled me through. As a young man, Oppenheimer was so absent-minded that, while on a date, he went for a walk while his date waited in the car, forgot about her and the car, and walked home and went to sleep. The first ever nuclear chain-reaction took place under the University of Chicago’s football field in an abandoned squash court. (This could have been dangerous, but the technology was so new that no one really understood the dangers.) Lastly, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not selected as the targets for the atomic bomb until the planes were in the air. Those two cities were chosen only because the weather was clearer there than it was at the other targets. While the bombs obviously had a huge effect on these two Japanese cities and the war, it also affected the men who had made the bomb when they heard about it. One nameless scientist was seen puking into a bush soon after the announcement of the bombing.
I'd give it to: Lars, a Norwegian buddy of mine, because he would love the breathtaking attack on a heavy-water plant in Norway that Germany was using for their bomb-making effort. The assault was carried out by Norwegian partisans on cross-country skis who blew up the building and then melted away into the snowy countryside.
@bookblrb: A detailed, readable account of the race to build the first atomic bomb.
In this incandescent novel, a family’s superpowers bestow not instant salvation but the miracle of accepting who they are.
“Okay, tell me which you want,” Alek asks his cousin at the outset of What the Family Needed. “To be able to fly or to be invisible.” And soon Giordana, a teenager suffering the bitter fallout of her parents’ divorce, finds that she can, at will, become as invisible as she feels. Later, Alek’s mother, newly adrift in the disturbing awareness that all is not well with her younger son, can suddenly swim with Olympic endurance. Over three decades, in fact, each member of this gorgeously imagined extended family discovers, at a moment of crisis, that he or she possesses a supernatural power.
“Brilliant, unexpected, wide-ranging and deeply moving, the story of one family's extraordinary—and sometimes otherworldly— negotiation of the very real hazards of life.”—Maile Meloy, author of Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It
“Pulses with hope....It's a tantalizing novel, one that’s both sharp and touching, and Steven Amsterdam is fast becoming one of our most interesting writers.”—The Canberra Times
A boy boards a small boat in order to be taken across the water. He begins to question the skills of the captain (a bear) when he wakes up from a nap to find there have been "unforeseeable anomalies" and that they are nowhere near their destination.
Why I picked it up: School Library Journal mentioned it as one of their top books of 2012. And on the cover the bear is wearing a captain's hat and drinking a cup of tea, which are pretty funny things to be doing in a rowboat.
Why I finished it: The sheer oddness of this book. It is a weird mash-up of Life of Pi, Three Men in a Boat, and The Old Man and the Sea. The beautiful illustrations could have been pieced together to make a silly picture book, but the author builds the tension of a boy trapped on an endless journey with a very large and hungry bear. Instead of a philosophical horror story, it’s a journey filled with humor because of the bear's commitment to being a good captain and having a daily tea break.
I'd give it to: My brother Jonathan, who I joined for a cruise a few years back, because he would understand the tedium of traveling in such a small boat while at the same time he could appreciate the book’s message about enjoying the journey.
@bookblrb: A weird, funny mash-up of Life of Pi, Three Men in a Boat, and The Old Man and the Sea.
A long-lost Modigliani portrait, a grieving brother’s blood vendetta, a Soviet secret that’s been buried for 80 years—Parisian private investigator Aimée Leduc’s current case is her most exciting one yet.
When Aimée’s long-term partner and best friend Rene leaves their detective agency for a new job in Silicon Valley, Aimée knows she can handle the extra workload. At least, that what she tells herself. Repeatedly.
But all bets are off when Yuri Volodya, a mysterious old Russian man, hires Aimée to protect a painting. By the time she gets to his Montparnasse atelier, the precious painting has already been stolen, leaving Aimée smelling a rat. The next day, Yuri is found tortured to death in his kitchen. To top it all off, it looks like Aimée isn’t the only one looking for the painting. Some very dangerous people are threatening her and her coworkers, and witnesses are dropping like flies. Now Aimée has to find the painting, stop her attackers, and figure out what her long-missing mother, who is on Interpol’s most wanted list, has to do with all this—fingers crossed she wasn’t Yuri’s murderer, despite clues pointing in that direction.
Obviously, Rene doesn’t need to worry. Aimee has things under control.
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Ellie and her family are excited when village life is interrupted by flyers announcing the imminent arrival of the Market. Because it only appears every 100 years, it is half a thing of fantasy. When it does appear, there are stalls full of foodstuffs, drinks, and anything one can imagine.
Ellie and her soon-to-be fiancé Joshua go to the Market together. While he is buying her ale at a pub, the Prince sits in Joshua’s chair. His glamour overwhelms Ellie. She leaves with him and lives out the next 100 years in a blissful, charmed fog. During the Market’s next appearance, she is sent outside on an errand; she returns after it has vanished and must wait another 100 years for it to reappear. A magic necklace keeps her young, but she is crushed when she finds out the Prince has not waited for her. (In fact, he doesn’t even remember her.) Over the course of the next several hundred years, Ellie tries to get revenge on the Prince for the pain he caused her.
Why I picked it up: I liked the idea of an itinerant market that only appeared once a century.
Why I finished it: It reminded me of Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War in that both are full of long periods of inactivity and planning separated by brief periods of intense action. Each time Ellie comes back to the Market, she has learned from her previous attempt to assassinate the Prince. She always has more technologically advanced firepower and has better tactics, too.
I'd give it to: Ally, who dressed up as a dwarf for the Lord of the Rings movie premieres. She would like Beesix, a dwarf who reappears throughout the book. He initially shows up a day before the Market’s first appearance, and talks to Ellie to determine which items are okay to sell (he isn’t allowed to sell items that haven’t been invented in Ellie’s time yet).
@bookblrb: Ellie seeks revenge against the Prince, who lives in a magical market that appears once every century.
Gwen Dylan works as a gravedigger in Eugene, Oregon. After work, she hangs out with her friend, Ellie, a ghost who died in the 1960s. She also digs up recently buried bodies and eats their brains. Gwen is a zombie. If she doesn’t eat brains frequently, she’ll lose her mind. But when she eats a brain, she gets the dead person’s memories. They cry out for justice or just to speak to a loved one again, and Gwen feels compelled to help out.
Volume 1 collects issues 1-5 and The House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1.
Volume 2 collects issues 6-12.
Volume 3 collects issues 13-18.
Publisher’s Rating: Suggested for Mature Readers.
Why I picked it up: Allred’s art makes everything look fun.
Why I finished it: I loved it as soon as Gwen described the taste of a brain she’s just dug up:
“Combine the two most horrible tastes you can imagine -- like motor oil and someone else’s vomit -- and you won’t even come close to this level of nasty.”
And, really, the supernatural elements in Eugene are just plain fun: an Egyptian mummy who’s been dead for centuries who wants to show Gwen and Ellie what they’re capable of; the beautiful vampires who run a paintball course to attract guys to feed on; Gwen’s friend Scott, who turns into a were-terrier whenever the moon is full; the hip, supernatural government team, the Dead Presidents; and the handsome monster hunter Gwen falls for. Plus there a plague of mindless zombies to deal with.
I'd give it to: Silver, who recently discovered a liking for horror. She’s new enough to it that the colorful brain chomping moments will creep her out, and she’ll enjoy laughing at Scott and his awkward, geeky friends.
@bookblrb: An undead gravedigger eats brains, falls for a monster hunter, and helps deal with a bunch of mindless zombies.
Curtis is still in Wildwood, training to be a bandit. Prue is back in Portland going to school. After Prue’s science teacher tries to kill her, Curtis brings Prue back to Wildwood for protection. But because of the foxes, Wildwood isn’t safe for anyone.
Why I picked it up: I really liked the first book in the series, Wildwood.
Why I finished it: The mole city. They use discarded human items for armor and weapons (bottle caps for armor and shields, pins for weapons). Their city is even made out of recycled trash, with buildings made out of old cans, bottles, and even books.
I'd give it to: Maya, in my class. She likes Dr. Who as much as I do, so I know she’ll like reading about Prue and Curtis. Plus she wants to be a paleontologist, and a lot of this book takes place underground, where she’ll be digging for bones someday.
@bookblrb: Prue returns to the magical, impenetrable wilderness near Portland, Oregon, after a teacher tries to assassinate her.
Cousin Clara knits Lester a dreadful sweater every night. One is pink and covered with upside down pockets. Another has extra sleeves. They’re hideously embarrassing, but he has to wear them all.
Why I picked it up: The sad-eyed kid on the cover in the ill-fitting, “less-than-pleasant yellow” sweater covered with purple pom-poms. Even the dog is confused about why he’s wearing it.
Why I finished it: I sympathized with Lester. I’ve had to wear some bad sweaters in my life. So I cheered as he arranged accident after accident for the sweaters. Which worked until he found out just how fast Cousin Clara could knit.
I'd give it to: There’s a librarian I run into from time to time. I have no idea where she gets her sweaters. Many feature cats, though a large number of them have holiday themes. Every year I wait for the Christmas collection to make its appearance: some bear scars of glitter fights past, others have tinsel woven into the yarn, and at least two require batteries to power Rudolph’s nose, stars, and Christmas tree lights. Frankly, I just want to see if she’d think this book was funny, and if she’d side with Lester or his cousin.
@bookblrb: Every night Clara knits Lester an embarassing sweater.
Full-color photographs and easy to understand instructions on how to knit zombies, vampires and other monsters.
Why I picked it up: I like to knit and I like horror films.
Why I finished it: I enjoy out-of-the-ordinary projects and I haven't had such fun with knitting since I made a beard for my son's Vincent Van Gogh Halloween costume. Every page had a new surprise, from Nosferatu to the (rather cuddly) abominable snowman pattern. Some of the patterns, like the zombie egg cozies, even made me laugh out loud.
I'd give it to: Sarah, who taught me how to knit. I think she'd love the instructions shown with monster and hairy werewolf hands holding the knitting needles. (Her hands are much more attractive (and less furry).)
@bookblrb: Photographs and easy instructions for how to knit zombies, vampires and other monsters.